Sadly like people the health of your dogs teeth is very individual. There are some patients which have perfect teeth until they are 12 years old, other dogs and cats can sadly have very severe periodontal disease from a very early age.

What is periodontal disease?

This is the build up of plaque on the enamel surface of the tooth, caused by a number of factors including diet, bacterial load in the mouth, pH of the saliva and individual genetics. This plaque becomes calcified forming tartar which is the very thick hard yellow material on the surface of the tooth which cannot be removed without descaling the teeth. 

If the tartar is left on the tooth this causes irritation at the gum line and inflammation called gingivitis. This in turn can contribute to gum recession, tooth mobility at the root and even tooth loss which can be very painful.

How do I spot periodontal disease?

When there is a heavy burden of tartar in the mouth one of the first signs is very smelly breath also referred to as halitosis. This is more than just ‘doggy’ breath it can be a very foul smell.

Does your dog or cat eat ok, often if there is severe periodontal disease and tooth mobility then your dog or cat may drop food when they eat (quidding) or may have excessive salivation.

Can I brush my pets teeth?

This would be the ideal and all our vets try to teach and instil dental hygiene with our owners from the very first puppy or kitten consult. This is an easier task to achieve in dogs than cats, they tend to be more amenable. 

Ideally we recommend cleaning your dogs teeth daily with a soft tooth brush or finger brush with some specific dog tooth paste i.e. one which has enzymatic action. The physical action of brushing your dogs teeth will remove the plaque which prevents it from becoming tartar.

Can the type of food help?

There is some evidence that feeding dry food will help to remove some plaque from the teeth by the physical action of the food being crunched and the abrasion helping to remove the plaque. Certain  dental diets by Hills and Royal Canin can help to reduce plaque build up. There are many dog treats out there which claim to reduce dental disease such as dentasticks. These treats are often relatively high in calories and it is a balance for the time that the dog spends chewing versus the extra calories in your dogs diet. 

There are other chew treats on the market including Stag bars, Yak cheese and bull horns. We try to follow the rule of always ensuring your dog is supervised with these harder chews and anything that is too hard to bend maybe a risk to damaging the tooth enamel. Occasionally we do see slab fractures of the larger teeth at the back when dogs have been chewing on these harder treats.

What do I do…..

Some dogs do not chew toys, wont eat hard food and wont allow their owners to brush their teeth. The main aim to ensure healthy teeth is to have an annual vet check which is part of your dogs booster vaccination. During this we assess your pets teeth looking for any tartar, gingivitis or any concerning lesions in the mouth. At this point we often suggest when a dental procedure is needed. This involves a day stay with us where your dog will require a general anaesthetic, this allows us to clean your dogs teeth safely using an ultrasonic descaler and assess any teeth needed for extraction. The cost of dental treatment is not often covered by insurances and we know that owners often find this a difficult outgoing but we must emphasise how important tooth health is in our pets. As our pets get older we often forget about their teeth so it is even more important to ensure we look after them when they are younger!

If you would like your dog or cat to have a dental check please don’t hesistate to contact your local branch of Swayne & partners.